I’ve seen the first four episodes of the second season of Doctor Who, and I’ve noticed that they each resemble an early episode from the first season:
- The first episode of each season involves an invasion of Earth by some improbable aliens (“Rose” vs. “The Christmas Invasion”).
- The second episode of each season takes place in humanity’s far future and features a number of unusual aliens (“The End of the World” vs. “New Earth”).
- The third episode of each season takes place in the 19th century and involves a classic horror element (“The Unquiet Dead” vs. “Tooth and Claw”).
- The sixth episode of the first season and the fourth episode of the second season features the return of well-known figures from the original Doctor Who series (“Dalek” vs. “School Reunion”).
On top of this, both series feature a recurring background element (“Bad Wolf” vs. Torchwood, the latter I guess laying the groundwork for the spin-off series). Hopefully Torchwood will have a more rewarding climax than Bad Wolf did.
Is this correlation just coincidence, I wonder?
2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: One Versus Two”
Probably not; having a “story arc model” is common enough in television, from tediously predictable sitcoms with unrequited love subplots to SF or Fantasy series where the same overall structure seems to get repeatedly applied to new characters or places. I observed to my Joss Whedon-loving girlfriend once that after its first three seasons were done, Buffy the Vampire Slayer settled into a structure where each season a “Big Bad” was introduced, the gang had a harrowing first encounter with it and realized that they needed to build their strength and/or find the key to defeating it, the Big Bad went off to gather its strength for a final showdown, and after a bunch of filler, the last few episodes of the season centred around the showdown. Which is not to say that the filler wasn’t interesting, or that the payoff wasn’t worth the wait, but when it didn’t work (Adam and the Initiative, Glory, the return of The First) it was boring and I resented the adherence to the model. As I recall, The X-Files had problems like that too. I don’t know Dr. Who’s history well enough to say for sure, but it seems to me that in its past incarnations, it was more episodic (ie., each episode stood on its own without particularly depending on knowledge of others), with references to other episodes being more a matter of “callbacks” than a greater structure.
Ah, I see that the referent for my last sentence is ambiguous. I wasn’t asking whether having a running story element was coincidence (as a big fan of Babylon 5, I’m well aware of that), but rather whether the episode-for-episode correlation between the two seasons is coincidence. (My guess is: Probably just coincidence.)
The original Doctor Who series had several periods where there were running storylines (the Key To Time season, the Black Guardian trilogy in the 20th season, the Trial Of A Time Lord season), although they tended to be simple frameworks into which the individual episodes could be dropped, rather than an actual ongoing plot. Of course, it’s hard to call the running story element in the new series a “plot” either, in that there’s very little development, just ongoing name-dropping.